January 21, 2021
Guest Ajay Dahiya, The Pollination Project
Hosted by Jamie Harris, Sentience Institute
Ajay Dahiya of The Pollination Project on funding grassroots animal advocacy and inner transformation
“Why inner transformation, why these practices are also built into model: unless we root out the root cause of the issue, which is disconnection, which is a lack of understanding that we are interrelated, and therefore I have an inherent responsibility to show up in the world with kindness and compassion and to reduce the harm and the suffering that I cause in the world. Unless we’re able to do that, these problems are still going to exist. The issues of race relations still exist. How many years have people been fighting for this? The issue of homophobia, of racism, whatever it is, they still exist; why do they still exist after so much work, after so much money has been poured into it, after so many lives have been lost, so many people have been beaten and spilled their blood? They’ve shed their tears for these issues. Because unless we address the underlying schisms within human consciousness, within us as individuals, it’s still going to exist; it’s still going to be there. Direct impact, indirect impact, I just want to see impact and if you’re someone who wants to make an impact, I want to hear from you.
Animals are harmed in all continents in the world. But how can we support the advocates seeking to help them? And what sort of support is most needed?
Ajay Dahiya is the executive director of The Pollination Project, an organisation which funds and supports grassroots advocates and organizations working towards positive social change, such as to help animals.
Topics discussed in the episode:
- How the Pollination Project helps grassroots animal advocates (1:20)
- How we can support grassroots animal advocacy in India and build a robust movement (12:48)
- How the grants and support offered concretely benefit the grantees (19:22)
- The application and review process for The Pollination Project’s grant-making (24:00)
- What makes good grantees? And how does The Pollination Project evaluate them? (27:34)
- How does The Pollination Project identify and evaluate grantees? (35:14)
- How important is the non-financial support that the Pollination Project offers relative to the financial support? (44:54)
- What similarities and differences does The Pollination Project have to other grant-makers that support effective animal advocacy? (55:23)
- What are the difficulties of making grants in lots of different countries? (1:02:00)
- To what extent are grassroots animal advocates constrained by a lack of funding? (1:06:26)
- Why doesn’t The Pollination Project’s prioritize some of the work that it does over others? Isn’t this kind of prioritization necessary in order to maximize positive impact? (1:10:00)
- What are the main challenges that The Pollination Project faces, preventing it having further impact? (1:29:05)
- What makes good grant-makers? (1:31:58)
- How Ajay’s experience as a monk came about and how it affects his work as a grant-maker (1:34:37)
Resources discussed in the episode:
Resources by or about Ajay Dahiya and The Pollination Project
Resources for using this podcast for a discussion group:
Transcript (Automated, imperfect)
Welcome to the sentience Institute podcast, interview activists, entrepreneurs, and researchers about the most effective strategies to expand humanity's moral circle with a focus on expanding the circle to farmed animals. I'm Jamie Harris researcher at sentences and at Animal Advocacy Careers. Welcome to our 14th episode of the podcast. I was excited to have Ajay Dahiya on the podcast because the pollination project, the nonprofit Ajay is the executive director is providing funding for a large number of grassroots animal advocacy organizations. Especially in the global South. I was keen to talk to him about their strategy and how they maximize the impact from the relatively small micro grants that they give out. On our website. We have a transcript of this episode, as well as timestamps for particular topics. We also have suggested questions and resources that can be used to run an event around this podcast in your local animal advocacy or effective altruism group. Please feel free to get in touch with us if you have questions about this and we'd be happy to help.
Ajay Dahiya is executive director of the Pollination Project, an organization, which gives grants to grassroots organizations who are working on a number of different causes, including animal advocacy. Ajay was a monk eight years and has been executive director of four different nonprofit organizations. Welcome to the podcast, Ajay.
Hey Jamie, thanks for having me
You're very welcome. So to start, can you summarize for us, what does the pollination project do and how does it help animals?
Yeah, the pollination project is a global community of about well it's over 4,000 grassroots volunteer leaders in nearly 120 countries right now. And what we do is that we use the money that we raised to invest in grassroots projects, uh, by people who seek to create a more compassionate world. And every day of the year, our network selects at least one project that will receive a thousand dollar, uh, grant and seed funding or micro grant. And as that project begins to grow and blossom, those leaders can access capacity, building supports and connectivity to a network of other people that can provide some inspiration and encouragement on their kind of journey. And, um, so through these efforts, we, we see the really vibrant, diverse community of global change makers who seek to spread compassion in the world. And there's a few things that make our work extremely unique.
Uh, one is that we fund individuals directly, um, and most of them are very early stage. Change-makers the sorts of people who haven't really taken on a social project before. Wouldn't be likely to be able to get their foot in the door of another foundation for financial supports. And another thing that I think really sets us aside is that none of our funding decisions are made in a boardroom or by anyone on paid stuff. Um, but rather we use a grant making model that, um, is extremely diverse and is made up of a multinational team of volunteers that we call grant advisors. Most of them were former grantees themselves and they'll review the applications and they'll help us well, they'll make the decision of who should get funded. And we kind of do all of the backend work to help them, uh, get all the information they need to make that decision.
And lastly, I think something that makes us unique as well is that we also focus on in a transformative practices, which we believe will sustain activism, uh, in the long run and in terms of what we do to help animals. Well, we're a vegan foundation. And that means that none of the projects that we fund can either directly or indirectly contribute to the exploitation of animals in any form. And one of the most vibrant funding areas for us actually is animal advocacy. And so through our daily grants program, we funded hundreds of projects that are advocating for veganism or working on corporate campaigns, lobbying for, uh, change, uh, legislative level, um, and other work that, you know, is there to support and uplift the rights of non-humans. And right now, particularly we also have a special program that invests specifically in farmed animal activism in Brazil, India, and Mexico. And then another one that reduces, uh, well seeks to reduce the consumption of conventionally farmed meat or seafood, anywhere in the world. So, you know, we fund in all issue areas and animal advocacy is one of the most vibrant areas in which we fund.
Cool. Some interesting stuff about the kind of practicalities on your rent there, I guess, about how the organization works, which I'm keen to dig into in a bit. Um, I guess one thing that I want to just pick up on that I noticed on your website as well, was that phrase you used inner transformation practices, what does that, what does it actually look like in practice? What does that mean?
What it means in practice is, uh, we trying to emphasize a concept that we call heartivism, and that is the intersection of our own hearts with our activism. And, you know, I think there's a, there's a challenge that we may have when we're out there trying to do good in the world in that we forget to look within ourselves sometimes. And so the things that we're seeing in the world that we're pointing out, that we have an issue with that we no longer want to see in the world. Sometimes we also hold those things within ourselves. And so if we want a more just world, well, how much injustice lives within me. And if we want to see a kind of world, well, where are the areas of my life that I'm also perhaps not as kind as I should be. So these practices, you know, I think the phrase is attributed to Gandhi. I'm not sure if he actually said it, but this idea of be the change that you want to see in the world that it's not enough just to try and make a change, unless yourself, you are not becoming the change that you want to see.
Sure. And how do you kind of target those things through the grant making process?
Well, part of a grant making process in and of itself and the application process is, is it really seeks to see if someone has an interest in community building also their approach and what motivates them to do the work that they're doing. Uh, and with the animal advocacy work that we're doing the founder of the pollination project himself and long-standing animal activist, Ari Nessel. He also, um, hosts regularly meditation retreats for animal activists. And, um, we run a program through the pollination project itself, which has focused on mindfulness for animal activists as well.
Cool. Okay. So I'd like to talk for a bit about how the grants kind of lead to impact for animals and the almost on the kind of recipient side of things. So there's a form on your website saying that $1.9 million were given out in 2018 and just over $103,000 of this went to animal advocacy. But since then you've had a grant of several hundred thousand dollars from Open Philanthropy for regranting to farm animal groups in Brazil, India, Mexico, Thailand, and Vietnam. So I guess I'm, uh, I'm interested in, in the more, the most kind of up-to-date figure where you're at in terms of how much money does the pollination project give out each year and what proportion roughly, if not exactly of that goes to animal causes.
Yeah. Last year has been a particularly interesting year for most of the world, uh, with the global pandemic. So 2020, you know, it's been a time for us to pause and think a little bit more about what we're doing. And actually earlier in 2020, we decided that we really wanted to rise to the moment and support the efforts of people who are battling COVID at the grassroots level, in their own communities. And so in early March, we, within actually five days, we completely overhauled our process. We had a meeting on Monday where we made a decision and by Friday we made a complete pivot just to focus in on COVID. So, you know, the, the stats from 2020 are not necessarily reflective of business as usual because the world hasn't been in business as usual. But just to, to speak to that a little more last year, we gave out roughly, I'd say about 900,000, almost a million dollars in seed grants.
And, um, you know, with our application process, we receive applications across so many different issue areas and we review each one on its own merits. And, um, the amount that went to support animal causes, we received about a hundred applications, I believe last June, 2020, that's roughly 3000 that we received in total. So a hundred, those were from animal activists and about 55,000, I'd say, went to animal causes. Um, and at the applications that we received, they fall under our animal rights or animal welfare, uh, kind of issue area. And, um, they're all very different. And so under that program, you can find what to do with, um, rescuing stray animals, or animal support, animal sanctuaries, vegan outreach, farmed animal advocacy. And so while we don't have a set amount of money, um, for any particular issue area, that's coming from our kind of daily grant budget, we do have specific funding for particular causes within our special programs. And so, you know, open philanthropy project, as you mentioned, they're funding a specific farmed animal advocacy program with us.
Sure. So do you kind of do, do you distinguish and track those what proportion goes to farmed animals within the animal advocacy cause area more broadly?
Yeah, we do track those. So, you know, uh, animal advocacy in general, um, you know, we can fund them under our daily grant project. And once our daily grant program is that we believe that, you know, a daily practice, uh, is very important for any change to take place. And so we make at least one grant a day. And so depending on the application that comes through in which area it will be reviewed by a specific panel. And so we do have a panel that's focused on farmed animals and, um, with that dedicated funding, you know, we have about $85,000 of grant funding and perhaps maybe an additional 30,000 from another funder for movement building support, um, in farmed animal advocacy really with open philanthropy project, uh, what we call our global animal advocacy pro program or GAAP that really works in this focused in, on Brazil, India and Mexico at the moment.
And so, you know, in that program, we're really focused on institutional change in those regions. And we're working with the grantees and others in the, in the kind of regional networks to provide activists with support in effective advocacy. And so that's on the open philanthropy project side, and then on another partnership with a foundation called tipping points, um, where they've also partnered with us for about a hundred thousand dollars in grants, which can be done anywhere in the world. They're not focused on a specific region and their real aim is to reduce the consumption of conventionally raised meats and seafood. And so, you know, both to alleviate animal suffering also to reduce carbon emissions. And so those are the two main areas of our animal advocacy outside of our daily grant program.
Oh, I see. So there's a, there's a separate... And when you say outside, uh, and you mentioned that you make one grant a day, is that from your, so those, those programs are separate and additional?
Yeah. Those programs are separate and additional and our daily grant program is, is something that we've committed to. It was really the founding of the pollination project is that we will make at least one micro grown, one seed gone every single day. We often do more than one in fact, but one is a us based commitment and that daily grant program, anyone can apply from that, for that, from any issue area. And so, you know, oftentimes you'll find that some of the animal advocacy applications that don't fit into these other two programs, uh, also then filter into a daily grind program to see if we can support them that way.
Cool. That makes sense. So I'd love to hear about specific examples of, of organizations or individuals that have received some of the money and used it to help animals too. Any examples of it, you know, personal favorites or any examples don't come to mind that you could share?
Yeah. I mean, I think all of our grantees do really extraordinary work and you know, those in an advocacy space, particularly for farmed animals and animals in general, um, one that jumps to mind is, um, Conor Jackson with Open Cages in the UK actually. And I think he's created, you know, a huge pressure campaign against Tesco, which is a supermarket coming from England. I know it very well. And so, uh, you know, he's utilized grant funds to pay for investigations, uh, particularly I believe into the intensive chicken farms that, that Tesco kind of partners with. And, you know, the, the, the findings have been published in major media outlets, like the times daily mirror, you know, BBC. So, you know, their reach from what we saw in our reports is huge. And, you know, the public figures sharing outreach online, they've mobilized thousands of people to, uh, to kind of come together and support this campaign.
So that really jumps out to me. Cause I think, um, it's going to be a real difficult battle for Tesco, you know, but you see that the, these, what, what could ostensibly be called, you know, a small amount of money, of course, in a pool of other funding, that's there has a huge impact. And I think, um, that project particularly jumps out to me. There's another one that comes to mind, which share may have less measurable, direct outcomes for animals, but is doing important work to raise awareness and to bring your resources to communities. And that's a person called Lakshman Molleti, and this is this water bowl project that we funded for stray animals. And, you know, they ensure that stray animals have access to clean water every day. And that action is a way to engage more people and raise awareness about the work of adopting a vegan lifestyle and also caring for animals.
So that, that, there's, there's something special about that one because I've spent a lot of time in India and, um, the stray animal population there is, is huge. And to see someone see that issue and really want to focus in on it, I think is important. I think it does have, uh, an impact. And lastly, something that comes to mind is a project in Mexico. Jessica Gonzales is, is, uh, is the name of the kind of leader of that project. And it's a library and it's a community center in Mexico. It's called animal house. And it's, it's specifically set up to learn about species isms and animal rights and, um, you know, a very novel approach in a place that perhaps doesn't have the sorts of movement building that, that it deserves.
Yeah. Interesting. Can I pick up on the Indian example briefly? Do you have other, do you have other applications from similar groups? Because my impression is that there in India, there's quite a lot of these kind of small local groups, but they don't necessarily have clear plans in place for, for how to make progress for animals. And so, yeah, I'm kind of, yeah, interesting that you've, if you've funded one group like that, have you heard lots from others and I don't know, do you have any thoughts about how that kind of translates into progress for animals?
Yeah, I think India is a very, very unique example and, you know, one of the reasons that we can jointly decided with, with our funding partners to focus in on India, Mexico and Brazil, is that you see that these are, these are, um, these are places where you're having a large population and there's a huge, um, huge amount of animals that are being going through animal agriculture and suffering in that way. And so one of the things that we see and it's one of the aims and goals of our gap program is that you do have a lot of individuals doing great work, and we feel that they could benefit from connecting with one another and really the vision initially was to build regional coalitions. And so through funding individuals, you know, we get to build relationships with those people and then connect them to others who are doing similar work in their region.
And now you're really starting to build the foundation of, of a solid movement, which you know, is, as we understand the sum total of the separate parts sometimes, uh, outweigh the individual themselves. And so that's our aim and not just in India, but really across the board. And, and a lot of what we're trying to do is to build that network, that's there to support one another and kind of furthers the mission of whether it's animal causes or any other causes. I think it's really important that we build those coalitions. So rather than people perhaps even being in competition with one another, it's more collaborative. And, um, you know, you'd really drive a group of people towards active change that has bigger impact.
And what does that connecting and coalition building actually look like? Is it like an introductory email? Is it getting people in the room together somehow? Uh, just for some context, we had a previous episode of this podcast, an interview with Jayasimha Nuggehalli of Global Food Partners and -- favorite quote from any of the podcast interviews I've done was Jayasimha said, capacity building capacity, building capacity building that's what's needed in India to make progress. So, yeah, I'm intrigued about the, kind of what that looks like on the ground and on a real practical sense. How, how does that work out?
Yeah. Before 2020, we really had some solid plans, but it kind of is taking a turn in a different direction. I think it has a number of different elements. Um, I think it really also depends on the individuals that you're trying to connect some, just want an introductory email and they were happy to take it from there. Um, the bigger vision has been that we really start to set up a regional trainings, I think, particularly in farmed animal advocacy, is there a go-to place for people to build the capacity and feel like they have agency and resource to, to continue to sustain their work and do it in deeper and deeper ways. And, you know, I don't think that's quite true for India. And so the idea has been to build these regional trainings that brings people together. I think a shared learning experience, a shared setting in which people can, can collaborate with one another and also support one another, maybe, you know, something that someone else doesn't and they could use support with that.
That's one element of it. The more that you can just bring people together who have a shared vision and a shared desire, even if their approach may be different. I think naturally what will emerge from that is something that we can't really measure or even anticipate. But I think the important thing is that you bring those people together and you allow drive, you allow their passion for making a difference to come together. And what will emerge from that, I think will be very beautiful, even though we may not be able to see it right now.
Yeah. Great. And, and with those trainings, then what's the, I mean, how, how are they organized? And what's the content
We're envisioning that right now, we haven't, we haven't quite launched those trainings. We were hoping to get it done last year, but it's something we're continuing to build on. I think just given, what's been affecting the world over the last year with the COVID pandemic, we've had to put a break on that because we really did pivot all of our grant making to support COVID at that time.
Cool. Well, that's exciting to hear. I didn't realize that you were planning on doing that sort of thing. And, uh, the other, the other organization I worked for, Animal Advocacy Careers, we're often thinking about various forms of training and planning to implement some this year. So that's exciting to hear. Yeah.
And it's, you know, I think particularly when you're at the grassroots level, that's, that's where we fund. We fund individuals who have a real passion and a real desire and a real plan to make a difference. And oftentimes it's a very lonely place. And it's also, how do you make your work sustainable? These people don't have organizations behind them. They don't have huge institutions with a lot of resources behind them. These are, these are people who are giving their life to this cause. And, uh, you know, if we can support them beyond financial means, I can go to bed at night and feel like, Hey, we're making a difference in kind of moving the needle for this person and learning ways that they can become sustainable because, you know, we're also limited in what we can do financially, but if we can support beyond just the financial, I think it goes a long way in the projects and for these people.
Yeah. So earlier you mentioned that you do give relatively small amounts compared to some other grant makers, at least. So just for some comparisons, uh, the average grant given by Open Philanthropy to farmed animal organizations when I checked their grants database a while ago was just under 600,000 US dollars. Uh, the effective altruism animal welfare funds grants have averaged just over $45,000 and animal charity, evaluators movement grants have averaged over 25,000. So obviously you've mentioned that one of the differences that you're focusing at the kind of individual effort rather than the organizational level, but why have you chosen to focus on those small grant amounts rather than I guess, spending more time on selecting and prioritizing and, and those sorts of things?
For us, particularly in the pollination project, the kind of the motivation or the catalyst behind the pollination project in its founding and its philosophy and its crime making model was to fill a gap. You know, I think yes, there is there's room for everyone at the table. And there is, there is space in the world for large organizations, large amounts of funding. But oftentimes if you're someone from a local community and you see a problem in your community and you have a drive to make a difference, it's very difficult for you to showcase to a larger funder that your, your, someone who's, um, who's who's should be funded. And so for us, you know, to me, particularly, I think the grant in and of itself is symbolic. Yes, a thousand dollars. You know, even here in America where I live, it's, it's a significant amount of money in other parts of the world.
It's, it can't be a huge amount of money, but there's more to it than just the money itself. Like I just think about it in this way. Let's say, you're someone you live. And we have these examples, you know, you live in a, in a slum, let's just use India as an example, cause we've already been talking about it and you feel so pained by the suffering that you're seeing around you, whether it's animals or human beings either way, and you really want to do something about it. And you think you have a plan that's very solid to do something about it. And you have the time and the energy that you're willing to invest in doing that well, when you apply to us, and let's say you get funded by us, that grant symbolizes belief is symbolizes that we see value in you. We see that you can make a difference.
And that to me is far more powerful than just the money alone, because who knows who that person then goes on to become, who knows what that person goes on to do. Who knows, that person does start an organization that does somehow or other bring in larger funding. But unless you give someone that starts, unless you kind of are willing to take that risk at the first step for someone it's impossible to consider that they would be miles and miles down the journey. And so for us, that's the gap that we were looking to fill that we believe everyone, whoever you are, where wherever you are, you have the agency and you have the power to make a difference. And if you can't see that, or if you can see that, no one else can see that we want to be there with you. We want to show you that we actually believe in you. And like we're willing to take that risk on you, um, with funding to see what happens.
Yeah, that makes sense. And you've mentioned a few times this possibility of somebody receiving the relatively small grant and then being able to 0build something out of that, that later receives potentially some of those other grants. They're kind of focusing a bit more on selecting the, perhaps the, almost like the highest impact opportunities amongst the kind of existing organizations type thing quite often, I guess, do you have concrete examples of where that has happened of where individuals have received funding from you and then gone on to receive funding from other grant makers giving these larger amounts? I noticed there's one story. I know impact page that is kind of along these lines where it says they received the seed funding, and then they received, it gives a couple of examples of larger grants later, but I was kind of slightly unclear from the description, whether they believe that the Pollination Project actually enabled that or whether they're just kind of unrelated events. So yeah, I'm interested if you've had any feedback or whether that sort of thing does tend to happen.
Yeah. There's a, there's actually a few of them, um, that I can think of one project that comes to mind in particular was, you know, they received a seed grant from us and then they have a thousand dollars. And we often, um, we also used to run a program called impact grant program, which you would get up to $5,000 once you'd gone through your initial thousand dollar grown and reported back to us, and we could see that you were ready for more funding and it could be useful in your journey. So there's one project, I believe it was based in East Africa, perhaps anyway, they went through that program with us and then they ended up securing $250,000 from the Obama foundation. Now that's a significant grant for someone in the work that they're doing. And in the conversation with that particular grantee, it was very clear that like without the pollination project, they would not have had any proof of concept.
They wouldn't have had anything to show beyond their idea because they had gone to other foundations and basically heard no everywhere else. And we were the first people to say yes. And we often the first people to say yes. So that's one example that I can think of. Another one more related to animal advocacy as an organization, you may be familiar with known as Material Innovation. And I met the co-founder at, at an event. And, um, and you know, the pollination project did provide a seed grant. And now I see that they, you know, because we were able to keep in touch and see how our grantees are doing that. They've really expanded their they've secured huge amounts of funding. Um, again, can I say whether that project itself wouldn't have received that funding if it wasn't for the pollination project? Uh, I'm not sure.
I think that's, that's a question I can how's that guarantee and get back to you on, but one thing I can say for sure, cause I've seen it time and time again, is that we are far more often than we're not, we are the first people to say yes. And when we say yes to someone, it gives someone the data, it gives someone the backstory, it gives someone the credibility of being able to show, look, this is what I've done with a thousand dollars, and this is what I can do with whatever it may be X amount of dollars unit. And so I've seen that time and time again, it's, you know, the foundation world can be a tricky one to navigate at times. And particularly if you don't have, um, the data that proves the proof of concept of what you're trying to do,
I guess one thing that jumps to mind from that is what proportion of proposals do you actually accept? Because you're kind of painting in the case of saying yes and providing the support. But I mean, I guess I don't have a sense of exactly how many applications you get and how many you give out.
I mean, last year we got about 4,000 applications. You know, our, our approval rates, you know, somewhere between like 17 and 19% generally speaking. And that's not because you know, all the other applications don't have merit. It's just that we're an organization that also has to raise funds to make these grants. So we would love to make even more grants and bring that percentage up. One thing I'll say also is, you know, our application process; its a small amount of money, no doubt, but we were very diligent in our application process. And so there is a lot of checks and balances in there to make sure that we're being effective with the grants that we're giving out. And so, um, you know, the application process, it's not, it's not one, you know, one could imagine perhaps that it's like, well, you must have loose guidelines.
And you know, it's a thousand dollars people apply, you're making it one grant a day. How, how robust can you be in vetting these grants, but we're extremely robust. And the only way that we're able to be so robust is that we have over a hundred volunteers who, who review these applications. And so, and even before he gets to lose volunteers, we have a team who pre-screen every application. So they go through, they make sure all the information is correct. They make sure it fits our guidelines. And if there's information missing that we need, we will work with the, with the applicant to try and get the application is as close to perfect as it possibly can be. So that when it is presented to our volunteer advisors, they're in the best position to decide whether those projects should be funded or not.
Cool. So, yeah, since we're speaking about these kind of the, almost like the grant-making practicalities, I'm intrigued about the, the kind of this kind of decision making process behind the scenes, then I guess the, the first first thing is what makes good grantees in your eyes?
Well, I mean, I think I appreciate all of our grantees and the work that they're doing. It's extremely diverse. It's, it's, there's a huge amount of variety. And as I said variety is the spice of life. But, you know, I think when you look at grantees who have various levels of accessibility to technology and other resources, you know, for some staying in touch is easier than others, but you know, you can start to see people who are eager to engage in community in our community. And, uh, you know, beyond just a transactional relationship in which, you know, you applied for a grant and you got a grant and you know, those who are willing to grow and learn and to share their progress and challenges, uh, not just with us, but with other people in our network. So they may learn from their experience as well.
And so that makes a great guarantee, but what it really boils down to is someone who's just that driven by the desire to make a difference in the world. And that's, you know, that's what they're not doing it because they want the name and the fame and the glory that comes along with it at that level that we fund. It's not very lucrative either for people, but it's like, no, I see a problem. You know, like I, this is the thing often I do it myself. I'm, I'm sure everyone does it. You look at something in the world and you say, you know, someone should do something about that. Well, when I see a grantee that steps forward and says, I see this problem, and I want to do something about that. That's the sort of person I want to support that, that to me is like, that's, that makes someone not just a good grantee, but an active citizen of this world. Who's really striving to leave it a better place than when they came in. And that to me is like, you can't put a price tag on that. You know, that's something that can't even be measured with data points that, that spirit, uh, that unbreakable spirit, that spirit of making a difference, not just for themselves, but for others to me is that's what I love about working here every single day and seeing the beautiful stories that we get to see.
Yeah. I mean, there's a lot to be said for kind of dedication and real drive and desire to, to make a difference and to improve the world. I think if you have that, then you can quite often kind of find ways around things and for different opportunities and all that sort of thing. So I, especially with smaller amounts of money, I definitely understand, you know, the keenness to just, just support those people as, and when they crop up.
Yeah. And you know, there's, there's also this thing of, like, there are certain things in life that are extremely hard to measure and like the data points, like, how do you measure love? And if you look at it now, if you look at the data on that, like the divorce rate, at least here in America is above 50%. Most people probably have their heart broken more than they find someone who's going to like really cherish their heart. The data would all point to saying, forget it, man. There's no such thing. Don't look for it, but who's going to give up that pursuit. You know, maybe some people will, but it's, there's, there are so many things like that in life where you just can't measure it. You just have to have the faith and the trust that yeah, there's something here and we have to follow this. You know,
Well that was something I was going to ask you about, because how, w what is that the kind of grant evaluation process look like? Because if you're looking for these qualities, which is so amorphous and especially different cultural backgrounds, different presumably kind of levels of education and things like that, if somebody is sending an application form, it's, I struggle to imagine how I would go about evaluating those things. Like, how would you choose those 17% or whatever it is from that, from those large numbers of applicants you get?
Yeah. It's not always easy. And, um, most things in life that are worthwhile and not too easy either. And I think it's a, it's a, it's a tricky balance between the objective and the subjective and trying to find the middle ground between the two. I think there's a, there's a few elements here that we can, we can think about and consider. And one thing is that in the application process, in and of itself, you know, we really do encourage the grantees to really think through their projects and, you know, um, that's an important, important aspect of it, but I think what makes it most unique and how those decisions are made as I touched upon earlier, is that we rely on volunteers. And right now, like I say, we have over a hundred of them, I believe in 21 different countries. And so, you know, I, I grew up in England.
I live here in America right now. How well equipped am I to look at an application that comes from somewhere like Nigeria, for example, and is there to support widows in a village somewhere? Like, what do I know about that? I could research something on the internet and look at Wikipedia, or, you know, go on YouTube and watch some videos, but like, I don't live there. I don't have that experience. I don't know what makes sense in the cultural context of the place. And so I don't make those decisions. We have this volunteer advisors who are spread across the world. Many of whom are themselves, former grantees, many of whom have worked in the issue is that these applications are coming from, and so we rely on them and not only do we rely on them, I, you know, I would go so far. I say, they are the backbone of the pollination project.
Those advisors are the pollination project because we're a grant making foundation and they get to decide where the crops go. So not only is it a very democratic and inclusive approach to making that makes sense on the, on the logical sense, because, um, like I say, you know, an organization based here in America, what does it truly know about the lived experience of people around the world who are applying for grants, but furthermore, what makes it a very, very interesting model to me is that it questions, the very idea of it can be a philanthropist, like our model. You don't have to be someone who has millions of dollars to, to spread around. You could join our group of advisers and you could be the philanthropist. You could get to decide where the funding flows. And so it is a difficult task.
And so I'm extremely grateful for those who step up to the plate to take on that task. And they have the cultural and geographical experience and understanding to make those decisions far more than, than I could or anyone in our staff couldn't. So, um, and our application process in and of itself as well, the questions are formulated in such a way that it brings in the objective and the subjective. And ultimately when it comes down to it, we, we are very trusting of our advisors. We believe in them and we believe in what they decide and, you know, we wouldn't have them in our network. Otherwise, if we didn't have that level of trust,
How does somebody actually become one of these advisors then do they, is there an application process for that? Or is, do you kind of reach out to former grantees? Or how does that work?
Yeah, I think it's a mix. You know, you have some people who just, they, they hear about the pollination project, we meet them, you know, re really tried to be relationship based rather than, um, you know, you can apply to become an advisor. Yeah. But it's generally like I'll meet someone or pick someone on our staff or know someone who really love what we're doing and they want to be a part of it. They want to volunteer in some way. And so there's an onboarding process. We'll have a conversation with them. We'll, we'll share with them the time commitment and what's needed and you know, how, how should they go through this as a training process that one has to go through. So that's, that's one way the majority of our advisers, a form of grantees themselves and being former grantees themselves, once, once they've kind of gone through the grant process and they've submitted their reports, many of them want to stay connected.
It's not just like a one and done sort of thing. I got my grant I'm done now, you know, dust my hands in and see you later. Like we really do try and emphasize a community spirit and like be part of this network. And so many of them want to stay engaged. And one of the ways that they can stay engaged is to use the expertise in, um, supporting others who are going through the process of applying as well. So that's generally the two way, the two ways that it's done in the majority of which is former grantees who have a desire to stay engaged, and then we onboard them and we take them through the process of how to review the applications and how to submit their feedback.
That's really cool. So what about the actual initial grantees themselves? How do you identify those people? Is it through some proactive research process and outreach, or do the organizations mostly find their way to you through word of mouth then that sort of thing?
Yeah, it's both. Um, you know, for our daily grant program, we organically receive applications from all over the world and there's not, we don't really do much outreach on our end. I mean, we have no shortage of applicants for that program. We do use social media to share stories of projects that we funded in the past. And, you know, the hope of being to encourage others to apply who could benefit from a seed funding, but, you know, for our special programs, in which we have partnerships with other foundations, we do take a more proactive approach. And for our farm animal advocacy programs, for example, we have a coordinator on staff whose full-time job is to do outreach and connect with people who are working in that space. And what we've also done in the past is our coordinator who's who's on staff also then looks for people to be regional coordinators.
And those regional coordinators who are working in animal advocacy, they will identify, Hey, there's someone I know who's doing project X who I really think could do, do well with some sort of seed funding. And then they're able to nominate those people. And so there's a person with nominating a person or a project to us, and then they also go through a process of being reviewed by our advisors as well. So it's, it's a mix of both, um, largely on the daily grant program. It's, it's people just find us because, you know, there's not many organizations out there offering the amount of funding that we're offering at this particular level grassroots level that we are, and then our special programs. Yeah. We do take a proactive approach to go out there and find those who are working in that space and then solicit from them, Hey, who do you know, who should we connect with? Who do you want to nominate?
Cool. And so that coordinator, I guess, I'm intrigued what the kind of the starting point was, was there already some, was it a kind of personal network? Was it for some existing grantees and kind of going from there because, you know, I understand that the kind of concept of this is almost like spreading out model of where you've got people with increasingly kind of better local knowledge feeding, feeding back towards the grant application. But yeah, just that, that, that process of, of proactive research, just kind of crying tree about how it starts and where it really looks like on the kind of day-to-day basis.
Yes. Again, it's relationship based. And, you know, we're fortunate that, um, our founder is very immersed in the animal advocacy world and through his relationships, we were able to have conversations with people who work for all different sorts of organizations who are located in different regions and, and to share with them, Hey, look, this is what we're trying to do. Here's the parameters of what we're, we're trying to fund. Here's the funding guidelines. These are the sorts of people that we're looking for. Who do you know, can you introduce us? And so it's really is like, our emphasis really is on relationships because I think in conversation, in the blossoming of a relationship, you will start to see far more that you may miss if it's just research and it's kind of more academic sense. Yeah.
So one thing you mentioned earlier was the idea of you guys having a, a kind of quite a rigorous process of evaluating applicants. I think you also mentioned briefly the evaluation of the grants themselves, kind of after the fact, how does the pollination project go about evaluating the impact of grants and understanding those, you know, the actual effects of the money you're giving?
Yeah while we encourage grantees to really think through how the project is going to have an impact, and we ask, we ask them in the application for how will you measure this know, ultimately what we put the emphasis on really is uplifting the people doing the work and providing whatever financial and non-financial resources we can to help them make a difference. So while we do ask for reports there, which in which we asked, you know, what have you accomplished with the grant? How many people did you reach? Um, things like that. We focus much more on the positive change that takes place for them as individuals and within the communities that they're trying to serve rather than the hard data. And, you know, I think one of the foundational pieces of what we try and do, which kind of ties into what we spoke about earlier was about in a transformation is what we're trying to do is we are trying to create a network of people who are spreading compassion in the world.
And that takes change of behavior to look at the world and see how you can make a difference rather than look at the will and just see the false hope someone else comes along and does something. So when it comes to changing human behavior, human beings are unpredictable. You know, like we're often very illogical and, um, and changing human behavior. I think hard data, isn't always a good indicator of how you do that. And so for us, yes, there are data points that we want to review because we have to be diligent. And, you know, we have a responsibility. Um, we raise funds from people. So we feel a lot responsibility to make sure that those funds are being used effectively. And there is impacts and simultaneously the other impact that we want to look at as a positive change that takes place in those local communities.
And so our report process really tries to tries to do that. And in the application process, we also, you know, it's quite lengthy, uh, to some degree, um, for the amount of money. And it touches on a number of different aspects. One is the values alignment with us as an organization. The other is what impact is going to have on the local community, the project itself, and what impact it's going to have on the person and the people that are now going to be touched by that project. What impact do you foresee coming for them? And so similarly in the reporting versus we want some evaluation of those measures, but really again, we're grantee led. We ask the grantee, Hey, how are you going to measure success? And by their answers to how they're going to measure success, also, it gives us an indication of whether that's a project that is likely going to get funded or not.
Yeah. So the actual kind of, I guess the impact in a quite direct sense of what was achieved is essentially almost quite distributed. It's the, it's the grantee themselves, they're finding rates that, and then you're focusing on this kind of development aspect. I mean, I'm intrigued about how, what the kind of like feedback loops are that, because presumably you're, you're, you're always thinking you're trying to evaluate yourselves and thinking, how can we improve the quality of our, of our grant making program and stuff like that. I mean, obviously it's, as you say, these, these kinds of subjective things are difficult to evaluate. I'm just intrigued if there's some kind of what the process looks like from the perspective of working out, how to, you know, go as far as you can with, with the sorts of, with the sort of grant making decision making process. Like if we go back to this idea, you mentioned that, you know, you get a lot of applications and you get 17% or whatever are actually approved. You want to make sure that those 17% are the right 17%. So how does that process of this kind of difficult to measure amorphous thing, feed back into getting the most out of the money and the resources and the, even just the volunteer time that you have available to you?
Firstly, it's not necessarily that the grantee themselves evaluate whether their work had impact or not, but rather that question is to formulate whether there's an alignment of values, like, would you measure impact in the same way that we as an organization would measure impact? And so we do have a standardized application and within the application, of course, it's, it's heavily narrative-based as well. So while there's the quantitative measures, there's also the qualitative measures and that's the same thing in the report that we, we expect to come back within nine months of you getting your grants, you know, there are, there are a number of parameters to look at, you know, how do you, um, how do you measure whether this is, this is a project that's gonna need to be funded. And so one of which is also like the budget of the, of the project itself, like is if you've not raised, if you've raised substantial amounts of funds already, do we believe, or do our advisors believe that the thousand dollars seed grant from us is going to be as effective as it would have been for a smaller project, for example, and how do you measure those things in the quantitative sense, while we have that standardized form.
And that standardized form really is a blending of the objective and the subjective. And so, you know, again, it's a lengthy form. So to go through it in a, in an interview, may, may bore your audience a little, but you know, it's, it's, it really does take into account the responsibility and the accountability on a tangible level of what we're trying to achieve as an organization, as well as the sorts of people that we want to be in relationship with as well.
Do you, kind of getting back to the, well, I guess the, the side of, of what the, the grantees themselves see, do you give restricted grants ever, or is it always apply... here's a, here's a pot of money, go forth and do well?
You know, funding is restricted in the sense that our funds are meant to fulfill certain objectives within a project. So when you apply, there's a question in there of like, okay, what are you going to do with this thousand dollars? And so then that's also taken into consideration. So that that thousand dollars is really often meant because we're funding grassroots people. It's, it's generally not for salaries or anything like that. Most of the people that come to us have volunteers who are doing their projects. Now it can support operational costs. It can support more direct costs of, uh, you know, I'm just thinking of a project during COVID, for example, where was someone was buying raw materials to teach youth in slums in India, how to make hand sanitizer, for example. So again, it's, it is, it's not, it's not unrestricted and like his a thousand dollars do whatever you want, it's restricted by what you are applying for that grant for. And so that we're going to measure that once you submit your report, did you spend the money for what you told us you were going to spend it for?
Yep. Yep. So you've mentioned some of these kind of softer forms of support, in addition to the financial support, such as the kind of coalition building aspect that you mentioned, I guess I'm interested if there's, if there are any other things in that category of these essentially nonfinancial forms of support that you offered the grantees.
Yeah. I think the biggest, the biggest phone non-financial support that we, we hope to offer is, is really relationships because through the relationships, you know, there's so many things that can, that can blossom. I, I think, you know, the hardest step to take off and is the first one. And so when you receive financial support in the form of seed funding, and you start to begin your work itself, and I think for a great many, a number of grantees, they come to feel that the funding was helpful, but the affirmation and the validation of a foundation supporting them was, was equally as meaningful. And so that belief that comes when someone invests in you, no matter the amount ,who invests in your dream, I think is extremely important. And then what comes along with that, that we're trying to build out. I don't think we're quite where we want to be with it, but it's something that we really are making a priority is, you know, sustainability.
So, you know, earlier on you, we were speaking about capacity building and I think that's really the key. How do you take, uh, an individual who doesn't have an organization behind them? Who's just got a thousand dollars seed grants and, and support them with training and with resources and with relationships, relationships with other funders that helps them along their journey. And if I, if I speak more broadly, and this is a concept I've been thinking about for a couple of years now, and it, you know, I hope to move it forward at some point, it's kind of cumbersome to apply for a grant. So now imagine you're, you're out there, you have a sense of urgency to, uh, push a project forward. You see the impact that it's going to have, but every time you need a next, the next level of funding, you now have to go through a completely different applicant.
Because you know, every foundation has a different application form, every foundation wants a different amount of data. So for us as funders, could we come together and this concept that we call ladder funding. So think of a ladder. We at the palatial project, we're happy to be the lowest rung of that ladder, but could we come together as, as funders and create a model in which, you know, a grantee submits a report to us, which then serves as the application to you. So let's say we're at the $1,000 level. The next rung of the ladder is $5,000. Is there a way that we as foundations and as funders can collaborate to take the burden off of the grantee so they can continue to focus their energy and effort and doing good work. And to me, I think that that's really the biggest place that I want. See us try and make some progress, uh, as an organization in building that kind of fun to circle. So, you know, along with trainings and the more tangible things of like, here's how you can tell your story better, here's how you can fundraise through social media or whatever else it may be. I think that's one of the nonfinancial elements that we can really, really support and I think is really important as well. And that's, um, here are relationships that we have that can also become relationships that you have
Exciting, those, those, those steps of, you know, some kind of not standardization, but support for the kind of intermediate steps sounds exciting. And I'm sure that would be helpful.
But I just helpful just to take the onus off of someone who's, you know, let's be honest, you know, like the activist heart isn't necessarily the administrative mind. So not to take someone who has an activist heart to make them sit down in front of a computer, pull out spreadsheets and it's difficult. They just want to be out there and make a difference. You know, they really want to push something forward. So why don't we make it as easy as possible for them to do that as funders?
So with this, these kind of financial and non-financial forms of support, I'm getting the impression you see you, you kind of get the sense that the real value that you are striving for comes from the, the non-financial support that you, that you offer. I'm thinking as well, let's imagine that the, upon the nation projects, budget and internal capacity doubled somehow over the next few years or something like that, would the priority be to increase grant making in terms of like numbers of recipients or would it be to increase the actual nonfinancial support that you offer? And I guess this may be comes back to whether there's kind of quite rapidly diminishing returns on the benefit of that nonfinancial support that you offer. Like, is it just being able to say any questions, ask me, is it just having that network that you can just quite quickly plug people into? Or are there almost like time-intensive forms of nonfinancial support that you think are really valuable?
Yeah. Great questions. Just to start with, I'll say that we're a grant making organization and, you know, from your mouth to God's is hopefully our capacity to fund increases significantly. I mean, it's my hope and why just one grand a day. Like, wouldn't it be wonderful if he could come to 10 grants a day? And so, you know, the desire always is to fund more and on two levels, one is to fund more people. So to take that 17, 19, 18% funding a percentage and move that up far higher, if the application merit such is important, but also could I envision in the future, if we had that sort of funding available, having different levels, even within the pollination project that you, you know, you start at the thousand dollar level, we do have the $5,000 level. Could we go up to 10,000 twenty-five thousand to continue to support people until they're at the stage where like, now you're ready to kind of like take the training wheels off and go on your own. Like, you don't need us anymore. Right. How do we get
People to that point with the Pollination Project is just another node in a larger network rather than like the thing that's sustaining you. So, yeah, definitely. I would love to see us fund more, more individuals. And also even at higher levels of something I, I would love to see happen if I'm going to use a very non vegan, friendly analogy if I may, but it's the only one that comes to mind. And I think it serves a purpose and its that analogy. But if you give a man a fish, he can eat for a day, but you teach him how to fish. He can feed himself in his village for generations or his family for generations, I forget exactly how it goes. And so those sorts of non-financial efforts, I think are more time intensive. As I mentioned earlier, like the activist isn't necessarily the administrative mind.
And so how do you run a nonprofit organization? If you get to that level, right, if you get to the level where you're making such progress, the needle is moving so much that you're ready to start an organization, but what are the elements that are needed to do that? One of the biggest things that we do is that we try to solicit feedback from our grantees also about, okay, what do you need beyond the grant liquid? You've got the grant and we've really trying to connect you with others who could fund you also, but like beyond that, what else do you need in the time and time? Again, it's the same thing, which is fundraising, fundraising, fundraising. And so, okay. Can we create a workshop, some sort of a course that someone can go through of like effective fundraising at the grassroots level, for example.
So now if we talk about effective fundraising at the grassroots level, you can't divorce that from then effective communications at the grassroots level. So how do you run your social media channel to have real impact? How do you identify the audience that you're trying to speak to? What sort of content can you develop? So you see, it just kind of keeps leading you. Okay. Now you're talking about content development. Okay. So what are the best practices and content development now? Okay. So just, you have a podcast, for example. Okay. So that's, that's one way of communicating something. So is there thing that we could do in the future that, Hey, you're a grantee that's interesting in starting a podcast. Well, here's a resource that you can, you can take, whether it's a cool, so anything else to do that, and it doesn't necessarily have to be the pollination project. That's the one who's doing that. What I really want to do is, is create this collaborative, this collective group of people who are doing good, who are bringing the, their unique skills to support others in kind of improving and enhancing their own unique skills. And so is that more time intensive? Yeah, I think it, it can be, I think other other things that are less time intensive, which is like, Hey, as an introduction to someone. Yeah. I think there's room for both. And there's a need for both as well.
Cool. You mentioned before that the grantees do sometimes use, uh, the funding you give them for kind of operational purposes sometimes and equipment and things like that. What about fundraising? We've spoken as well about the, uh, about grantees then going on to receive other grants, but yeah, I guess, do you encourage or discourage that use? So, I mean, the sort of general case for fundraising is that money invested, you know, you get a higher return on the investment if you put it into fundraising. So for a few years ago, 8,000 hours just summarized in their kind of research summary on this, that for every one pound or $1 or whatever I spent on fundraising studies are showing that charities typically raise four to 10 in return. And you get, you know, you get examples, uh, much higher than that. So a good fundraising can make a substantial difference to what animal advocacy nonprofits can achieve. And I guess, especially sometimes, but perhaps in some of the contexts that you, you might be looking at where fundraising might not be, I guess it may be more challenging. Uh, if there are areas where it's, it's less common to donate, there's not as much of a culture of philanthropy, that sort of thing. Yeah. I don't know any thoughts on this. Do you have a kind of a policy on this? Do you encourage us discourage it or is it again kind of let organizations run with it and do whatever they think is most needed,
Either encourage or discourage it. And rather like, what we see is because again, we're at the grassroots level, oftentimes people aren't quite in a position to do more substantial fundraising on an institutional level. Let's say oftentimes one of the things I've seen regularly is we will get applications to use that thousand dollars to build a website, for example. So when we're talking about fundraising itself, it's, you know, a website is a fundamental tool that you're going to need because that's how you're going to communicate what you're doing. Like I know for example, when we get applications, if there's a website link, the first thing I'll do is I'll click on that link to see what the website looks like, what information I can gather from that. And so, you know, we believe that the grantee or the applicant themselves is best equipped to tell us where they're at in their journey and what they're going to need. And so it's not that we discourage or encourage fundraising if you want to fundraise that's, that's fine. Let's see the plan, let's see the impact that that's going to have in terms of what is your project actually trying to do and is a thousand dollars really going to be enough to kind of get you to where you want to get. Have you spend that, you know, let us see the plan for that. Let's understand why you think that's the important step to be taken at this time in your journey.
Yeah. Going back to this idea again, of the kind of interaction with other grant making organizations, there are a number of other organizations that give grants to farmed animal organizations. Uh, there's a list put together by fish welfare initiative that, uh, a list of grants and funds for animal advocacy organizations and there's 24 different organizations providing grants on there. What do you think are some of the main similarities and differences between your approach and the approach of others? I mean, I'm sure we've covered some of them in terms of the, I guess, the smaller, the smaller grants and the, um, the, the focus on, on what you're hoping to get out of it. But any other thoughts, jump to mind some of the main similarities and differences?
Our model of having the advisors as being central to the process, I think is very different. Um, I, I like, I don't know of many organizations that really every, every funding decision for us is made by, by an advisor who's out there in the field and has experienced it, no funding decisions ever made by anyone on staff or anyone on our board, or any, anyone who has a position to deal within the organization in terms of being a staff member. So, you know, I think that's a, that's a, that's a very different approach. And, uh, you know, it's really trying to push power out to the edges. As we say, at the pollination project, those who were at the they're kind of at the forefront of the, of the issue, also helping others at the forefront of the issue and deciding that for us. So I think that's extremely different. And, um, and I think unlike other organizations who are focused on animal advocacy, you know, we fund projects across multiple issue areas and across most of multiple focus areas, um, even within animal advocacy, it's not that we just fund, you know, vegan projects, we just fund farm animal projects, for example.
So that, that I feel is extremely different, um, to most in the field is that we do start to see the interconnection between different issue areas. So, you know, you can talk about deforestation in Brazil and how that, you know, animal advocacy, animal, um, farmed animals are inherently tied into, to what's happening in the Amazon and that deforestation and how that then has an impact on the environmental climate change issues. You know, we have the interconnection there. So I would say that's different. I think the other thing that makes us different also is our emphasis more on that heart centered work, that in a transformative practices and the measure of impact beyond what can be kind of plotted out on a graph. Again, I'm not sure how many other organizations focus in on that. And I just think that's a very important aspect for activism to be sustainable over the long run. And in terms of in similarities, I believing in uplifting work that is going to make a difference in the world and make the world a better place and make it a more kind of place, a more compassionate place. I think those similarities are clearly shared amongst most funders out there.
Great. Yeah. That list I mentioned, pollination project is one of only three organizations that's in the section, there for "early stages" funding, as opposed to late stages. Essentially two others are University Impact, which focuses on social and environmental issues, which could potentially be linked to animal welfare presumably. And another one called seed of change though, that organization currently only seems to have two grants listed in the animosity section for 2020. Have you had much inter or had any interaction with those two organizations? I don't know anything about them, myself.
Well, a Seed of Change. We have a partnership with actually, and when they had first established themselves, they had reached out to us. Um, we kind of have opposite problems, not that they're problems, but you know, we have, we have so many applicants and eliminate amount of funding and they had funding and they weren't getting as many applications coming through. And so actually I'd mentioned earlier this concept of ladder funding, where can we partner with other, other funders who fund at a level higher than us and have our report serve as an application for them. And so a seed of change as an organization, we've been doing that with full two years now, actually. And, um, you know, they have their issue areas and we have our issue areas and where we see that there's overlap and where we, when we get a report from a grantee where we see, Hey, this grantee, like I think it could be of interest to a seed of change, the sort of work that they're doing, the sort of need that they have now going forward. We will share with the permission of the grantee, we'll share that report with a seed of change and then a seed of change. We'll take it from there and build a relationship with them. So yeah, we have that standing relationship now for about two years.
Cool. That's exciting. Um, I guess almost like taking in some ways further in the, in the kind of early stage direction is a different model offered by the group Charity Entrepreneurship, which is where they actually seek to essentially create the organizations from scratch. Like they do the research about what they think, what they're optimistic about, and they find the people to create those organizations and provide some funding. They kind of do a lot of the process of creation themselves. What are your thoughts on that model? And yeah, whether that, that kind of almost more intensive, proactive, early stages effort can bear fruit.
Yeah. I think it can definitely bear fruit. I think any model, uh, whether it's at the grassroots level or otherwise, I think any model that is driven by people who really want to make a difference, I think is an effective model. And I think there's room for all of those models. Um, you know, for us, particularly, we don't, we don't tend to do that. Um, rather we, we tend to, you know, we want to take an approach in which we want to trust people who are approaching us to say, Hey, they know what they're doing in that area. Like for us to be able to do that in the global context that we operate in, it would be extremely intensive in terms of a staffing need for us to, to build out projects like that because we are in 120 countries or more than 120 countries right now.
But I do see value in that. I think this incubator model, which, I live here in the San Francisco Bay area with, with, you know, this is where the tech revolution took place. And to some extent that still takes place. And, you know, you have those incubators here who will take a concept, find the right people, build it, and then it goes off and becomes its own thing. I think it's an interesting model. I think it's an important model. I think it can fill a gap that's there and, you know, just for us to particularly think it it's important for us to, um, to fill the void where, where these early stage people who have their own plan and just need the support.
Yeah. You've mentioned a few times this, this idea of having the very large kind of spread of different different countries that you work in with, what are the difficulties that arise from that in terms of making grants organizations where presumably there's very different cultures, different political contexts, all those sorts of things.
One of the things I'll say just on a very practical level, I think one of the difficulties, uh, you know, like the language barrier, like, you know, our we're a remote organization, we always have been. And so everything that that's done is done online and in to translate our website and our application and everything else into, into multiple languages is definitely a challenge. And it's something that we're trying to address right now. I know that as technology is advancing, there are plugins and so on and so forth that you could, you could use to make that happen. So that's one thing. The other thing is, of course it, it, we're trying to be as equitable as possible, but still the application process is online. So, you know, if you're in a place in the world, wait, you don't have access to technology or the internet it's, you know, it becomes a little challenging, something, something we're thinking about, you know, in terms of operating in some of the, uh, you know, areas where there's such different, uh, cultural and political values.
Yeah. As, uh, as our advisor group, uh, more familiar with those, um, elements, they they're able to ascertain by looking application, whether it makes sense or not. So, I mean, I won't name the country too much, but you know, there are places in the world where it's very difficult to get money from America over there, uh, because of the political climate and so on and so forth. And so that's definitely a large challenge. And, you know, I think, I think our model really does try to address it as best as it can in having the distributed model. I think, um, it's, to me it's a far more equitable model than, than me or anyone on our staff trying to decide who are based here in America, you know, of, of what should be done, what makes sense culturally. And of course, when it comes to cultural understanding whether that's geographical or otherwise, I think it's also an ongoing process.
I think any organization that says, yeah, we got it, we've ticked this off the box: doesn't have it. I think, you know, you have to continually try and improve your cultural understanding, continue to try and figure out ways in which you can be more culturally appropriate and, uh, have more cultural relevance, uh, in terms of the work that you're trying to do all the while trying to avoid this concept of I'm coming in as the savior from the first world. You know, I think that's a, that's a real challenge that has to be addressed on an ongoing basis. I mean, I, I hear this... Red nose day, which I was a big fan of, comic relief, which I was always a very big fan of as a child, you know, they they've stopped sending people to Africa from what I, what I just read in the news, because it, you know, the image that has been portrayed of Africa is one of like where they kind of lowly in need help, for example. So I think another challenge for us as an organization, which isn't necessarily tied into the participatory grant making model that we use is just, we have to be very careful of stewarding the stories of the grantee projects in a way that's appropriate rather than, um, perhaps framing them from our kind of Western there's no Western mindset. I think that that's a really big challenge that we have to retain the dignity of the places and the people that, uh, that are being served through our, yeah,
That makes sense. Tough. I don't think there's any like reflections or words of wisdom I can offer in response to that. It just sounds difficult. Okay. What about the, the, the, you mentioned that, that like literally the, the, like the legal issue briefly, is that a common problem or is it kind of just a, a small number of countries where it just crops up and is almost unavoidable problem?
Yeah, well, you know, in certain countries it's a small number of countries in certain countries is definitely a problem. I mean, as much as I hate to say, one of the reasons that we, we no longer do our farmed animal advocacy work in China, for example, is that we found it very difficult to get funds across, to, to, to applicants that were approved for funding. And so, you know, it's, it's a small number of countries and, you know, by the fact that we're in over 120 countries right now, I think that illustrates that it's, it's not many, but it's still painful, you know, because there's good work to be done everywhere. And those people who need that support everywhere, and, you know, you get these applications, you think, wow, like this is something we really, really want to support. And we really try our best to figure out every avenue to make it work. And sometimes you just hit a roadblock in which you just can't get the funds across.
Hmm. I don't know, I guess quite a different, a different note, but it's speaking still to this, this kind of topic of how the pollination project fits into the wider farmed animal movement that we've talked about a few times. Animal Advocacy Careers, you know, the other organization I work at, we recently conducted a survey of 56 animal advocacy nonprofits, where we asked them to what extent various factors limited their impact. And obviously this tended to be, you know, this is, this is organizations that are, to some extent established, you know, not people brand new kind of pursuing projects, whatever, but the factor that was highest rated amongst any of the ones that we offered was lack of funding, which had an average score of 3.4 out of five. And it was even higher for organizations in the global South specifically. What's your impression about the extent to which, I mean, I was going to ask about the animal advocacy movement in general, but you can speak to your grantees specifically, and there, they're more kind of, I guess, smaller scale contexts, what's your impression of the extent to which funding is the main barrier that they face versus other forms of problems and other difficulties to kind of getting their projects up and running and having impact for animals and the other courses you're interested in?
I think it's a really interesting question. Um, like one thing I'll say, and I know this, I can speak more to the grassroots level of, of the advocacy work that we're doing. And a lot of times people aren't even familiar with the opportunities, uh, for receiving a grant for the work that they're doing. And so just getting the opportunity in front of people who can really benefit from them can be a challenge. And, you know, as I mentioned, we're working right now in Brazil, India, and Mexico. And, you know, it's a challenge. These applications are open. We don't get so many applications. And of course there's a language barrier, perhaps. I think what's more interesting in this question though. And it's something
That I can contemplate over time and also I think about often is how much is it that the funding is the issue or, or how much is it that we think the funding is needed to make something happen as well? You know what I mean? Like, is that a barrier that perhaps we as individuals also create for ourselves to say, look, I, if I don't have money, I can't do this. And I, I'm speaking on a personal level. I have been involved in many projects over time. And I, if I look back with hindsight, I see so many times where things I could've done and there's opportunities I could have taken. And I didn't because I thought, well, I just need to buy this equipment. Or I just need to like, fund this part of the project before I can do that. Uh, you know, I think it's both, I think funding is an issue.
I think, unfortunately we do live in a world where money matters and money does make the world go round. And we can see that, you know, like if you let's talk about the, uh, the kind of plant-based movement that's taking place, I can again speak to that more in America. Cause I I've been here for a number of years now. It's like, McDonald's the most prominent brands they're adopting based items on their menu. Well, is that because they have some moral feeling about this? I mean, I, I'm not sure how, because that moral feelings should have been there any time or is it that now they see, Oh, I can make profit from this and now, you know, so let's adopt it because now it becomes profitable for us. So I think it's interesting, you know, how money is so intertwined into everything that we do and everything that way, like we consider it. It's just, it's a very, very interesting thing. So I, I question is funding the issue. Absolutely. I mean, it would be silly for me to deny that funding's an issue. How much of an issue is it is a big issue? Is that the only issue? No. Sometimes can we create it being a barrier that it may not be perhaps I think it's something for us to consider as we, as individuals, as we go on trying to do could work.
I know we've spoken a bit about how not everything can be reduced to its quantitative metrics and numbers, but I'm going to chuck some numbers out. So bear with me. So we've also spoken a bit about the different cause areas of the pollination funds and it's not just animal advocacy, right? Global change agents in various areas. You, you, you give support to, um, to give some ballpark estimates research by GiveWell who are a charity evaluator, suggests that costs thousands of dollars to save a life. If you donate to the most cost-effective global health charities in the world that they're aware of, that an individual could give to at least, whereas one research report by Rethink Priorities concluded that corporate animal welfare campaigns affect nine to 120 years of chicken life per dollar spent. So for the price of saving one human life, you could potentially help tens or hundreds of thousands of chickens.
These estimates are imperfect in a whole number of ways. There's a lot of important indirect and long run effects that aren't accounted for in them. Um, I'm also comparing some pretty different things here, saving a human life versus like improving animals lives, but all those, you know, considering those things, it still seems to me on face value that in general, donating to help animals will often do far more good than donating charities that help humans. And we can talk about this in kind of heuristic terms, as opposed to some of those specific examples. You could just talk about the kind of principle of neglectedness of speciesism and humans tending to work, to help humans and those sorts of things you could talk in terms of scale of the vast numbers of animals that are in factory farming, et cetera, that would lead you again to think that there's probably going to be cost-effective opportunities to help animals. I don't know what your, I guess I'm interested in your initial reaction to that. My kind of provocative question is why give to human causes too, but I'm interested in your, in your, just your general thoughts about those potentially vast differences in just the impact that can be achieved with the same money and effort from just by focusing on a different area and a different cause area basically, or prioritizing some much more than others, basically.
Yeah. I mean, I, I would agree with you that I don't think, um, that donating to a global health charity or such can be an analogy for funding, grassroots volunteer efforts, such as those that we funded the pollination project. And the work that we do is, is very different in that firstly in a way, supporting individuals more than organizations and individuals they're able to deploy their work far faster than large organizations. And we saw that during COVID like we have multiple stories, we funded over 800 applications in 2020, almost 800 applications. The vast majority of which were COVID related. And you see that you see that the people at the groceries level in their communities were able to deploy much quicker than organizations coming from the outside. So I'm not sure if the analogy quite translates, but, and the other thing is that the grassroots level people are about to capitalize on the kind of nonfinancial resources, which we've somewhat touched upon throughout our conversation.
And that helps them be more successful, more impactful and more cost-effective as well, because since they're deeply tied into the communities they serve, you know, the work that then unfolds and that scaffolding, uh, well on the scaffolding with existing and trusting relationships, the knowledge of the culture and the community, the kind of boundless energy and passion that comes from doing work, not because, you know, your pay to do or anything else, but because you're so deeply, you care so deeply for your community and those that live within it. So on average, what we find is our projects, uh, the highly efficient actually like over the last six months, um, uh, each project, like on average that we funded, served over a thousand, you know, humans and non-humans and, you know, on average as well, we see that our, our projects over the last six months of have, um, solicited about 150 additional volunteer hours from the community.
So for a grant as small as a thousand dollars, you know, I find that very compelling actually. And so, um, in terms of efficiency and effectiveness, I wholeheartedly believe that like at grassroots model is, is impactful and it's efficient and it's a good use of resources, but, you know, truthfully, you kind of touched upon this as well as we, as we discussed, you know, we don't view success here at the pollination project in terms of comparative outcomes necessarily. You know, we see the value of our work across all of our focus areas is acting as an antidote to apathy and building, building an intellectual diversity of ideas and encouraging individual action as a compliment and counterpoint to like institutional led change. So we fund in every issue area. Uh, although I'll note that we don't make any grants that compromise the rights of animals that exploit animals.
And so there's much impact that just can't be measured. And so our vision is to uplift individual action, to create a kind of more compassionate world for humans and non-humans alike. And we've seen time and time again, that the projects that we fund have a ripple effect in the commu0nity and the projects also incentivize others to act from a sense of compassion consciousness. They build, even within our own ecosystem, they, they build this multidisciplinary community and greater connection. And, you know, uh, I'm a, I'm a bit of a storyteller. So, you know, there's a story of a great storm that takes place. Thousands of starfish get, get washed up onto, onto the shore. And you know, this little girl is she's, she's going, she's picking up the starfish and she's throwing them in. And someone comes up and says, Hey, what are you doing? There's thousands and thousands of starfish here.
What you're doing, doesn't make a difference. It's not making any difference. And she thinks about it for a second and she picks up another starfish and she throws it back into the ocean. She looks back at the person and says, well, it made a difference to that one. And then anyway, as I hear the story go, that person themselves became inspired and they started to pick up starfish and throw them back into the ocean and everyone else who was there saw that. And they started to pick up starfish and pretty soon all the starfish were back in the ocean. So, you know, in terms of comparative sense, I don't know, how do you, how do you quantify, how do you rank suffering in the world? You know? Yeah. We can rank the impact that it has, but you know, whether you're reaching a thousand people, you're reaching 10 people. I think it's very difficult to quantify the impact that that will have over the long run.
It's something that I think might explain some of the differences here is that I was kind of assuming that some of your investment in people is not in a cynical way, but is essentially is like a stepping stone towards impact for animals or impact for the beneficiaries of the organization or the individual's efforts, whatever that is. But I now get an impression that maybe you see the kind of ripple effects and, and almost like the movement for positive social change in general, as the outcome in itself? Do you, is that how you see the impact of the foundation project or do you see it as kind of instrumental in, in the way that, I mean, for example, if I were to invest in some form of capacity building thing for animal advocates, I wouldn't be, I'd be kind of just be looking very narrowly at like the end goal for animals and sentient, neglected sentient beings, I would, it would be like any improvements to the advocate would be purely instrumental. You know, I'd see some value in it, but it'd be tiny compared to the value I'd see for the animals. Is that, is that, is that different for you?
Yeah, I, you know, what I believe is there's room for everything. And I think there's room for direct impacts. I think that there is also a space for indirect impact. And if I just speak personally, um, what I feel is that a lot of the problems in the world that we see a lot of the issues that we're looking at, and we're trying to perhaps, and make a dentist this symptomatic of a deeper seated issue. And it's an issue of human consciousness. And it's an issue of a lack of seeing our interconnection to the world and everyone and everything within it. And so for me on a pedestal, and again, you know, we work in a very broad range of issue areas. We have over 4,000 grantees in 120 countries. This isn't going to hold true for everyone in that network. So I'm just speaking for myself and what I see why in a transformation, why these practices are also in built into our model, that unless we root out the root cause of the issue, which is disconnection, which is a lack of understanding that we, we are interrelated.
And therefore I have an inherent responsibility to show up in the world with kindness and compassion and to reduce the harm and the suffering that I caused in the world, unless we're able to do that. These problems are still going to exist. I mean, I'm sitting here right now. It's January six. There was a huge election that just took place yesterday here in America. So called a runoff election. And what we've seen in the last few years not to get political because I, anyway, my feelings are political politics is a whole different podcast, but nonetheless, like the issues of race relations still exists. I mean, how many, how many years have people been fighting for this? The, the issue of homophobia or racism of whatever, whatever it is, they still exist. Why do they still exist after so much work? After so much money has been poured into after so many lives have been lost.
So many people have been beaten and spilled their blood. They shed the tears for these issues because unless we address the underlying schisms within the human consciousness, within us, as individuals not being able to see how connected we are, how interrelated and into interdependent, we are still going to exist. It's still going to be there. And so for me, look, we, we have a big team at the pollination project, whoever you are and whatever your belief is in terms of how change takes place in the world, how effective change takes place in the world, whatever your project may be. We want to hear from you. We want to support it if it makes sense. And if it aligns with our values, I particularly feel drawn to, um, to this concept that like no issue is in a silo in and of itself. Everything is interconnected.
And so you want to care about animals. Well, you have to care about the environment. You have to care about human rights as well. You have to care about everything and that you may focus your energy and your effort in one particular area, because that really, really calls to you. And to me, what really calls to me is, is this concept that I've seen in my own life, that unless I'm willing to change my own hearts, I am, I'm a hypocrite actually. And I'm contributing to the problem, perhaps, unless I'm able to root out of me, what I see in the world. And I point that, and I say, I don't like this. If it lives within me, I'm part of the world too. If that, if those things live within me, I'm giving them a safe Haven and they're always going to exist, direct impact, indirect impacts. I just want to see impacts. And if you're someone who wants to make an impact, I want to hear from you.
Nice. Well, it's a, it's a, it's a compelling vision. I think, as you can probably tell I'm much more driven for really just maximizing and optimizing impact in, I know we've talked about how in, in some senses, some of these things are very subjective and they feel like they can't be quantified. I think you can always trade things off though. I think there always comes a point where something that seems, that seems in comparable to something else. At some point you would, you would compare it if you had to. Um, I, I find that people off a comparison, which I'm sure listeners empathize with is that I find that people sometimes say that, say animal suffering and human suffering are fundamentally in comparable. And it's used to justify positions like that. You would essentially never help animals if it costs humans, anything where people say like human lives are not lives, but human suffering is so much worse because so just on this whole other plane it's in comparable.
But I think people, you know, if you, if you push it further and further, and I'm sure philosophers would object and people will cry, Pascal's mugging or something like that. But if you push it further and further, and people do make these people do accept it, uh, people do accept that some comparison is accept is, needs to be made. Uh, you know, if you're, if it's like poking someone gently in the face or torturing absurd numbers of animals, then people will say, poke the person in the face, even if they previously held that position. So, yeah, I, I mean, I'm just kind of more gung ho about saying comparisons exist and here's the point where I go for them and all things told are going to maximize positive impact.
I think, I think it would be foolish to say comparisons didn't exist. And I think it also, it would be foolish to say that there is no trade off yet when you come to that point of deciding what the trade-off is, that you fall back into the realm of being subjective. And ultimately you can, you can quantify it. You can create the points around it, but who is the person creating those data points? Who's measuring the impact, you know, suffering anywhere, whether it's human or animals. Uh, you know, I don't even like to use the word animals, but you know, human and non-human beings. It's a problem. And so like, I want to work with anyone who wants to stop suffering. And like I say, you know, our, our grants and the data that we see from our grants is that a thousand dollars does have a huge impact.
And whether your projects has, is animal related or otherwise you as an individual, also matter to me and you as an individual realizing your capacity and your agency matters to me because I don't know who you meet and who you impact in your life and who they go on in their lifetime to impact as well. You know? So I, what I, what I really feel is that anyone who wants to do good in the world, we shouldn't get into this competition mode. I think there's room for everyone. And I think there's room for everything, you know, serving humans, serving non-humans, um, serving the environment. Again, it, to me, it goes back to like this all interconnected, for sure. And I take my hat off to the organizations that focus in on an issue area and really, you know, make headway in it. I don't think, um, I don't want to take away from that in any way. And definitely there's a comparison and definitely, you know, dollars matter and the dollar can be stretched in one area more than another. For us at the grassroots level, a thousand dollar grant, you know, were really aiming to unlock the potential for compassionate change in an individual and where that leads them. I, you know, I have faith that it will lead them in a direction that's going to have even further impact
Just picking up on that. I can't resist picking up on that point about dollars going further in some, some areas than others and on a, on a geographical basis, uh, like a compelling argument for focusing on some of the areas that you do focus on already is that money goes further. So for example, you've got this program that operates in India, Brazil, Mexico, and formerly China, but you've also funded grassroots efforts involving animals in, in various other places, right. Europe, uh, Africa, North and South America, Australia Asia. So I guess, yeah, the argument is essentially that giving the lower cost of living in the global South donations just can sometimes go further where that's kind of for operational costs or, or as you say, you kind of tend to fund volunteer. So won't be salaries necessarily, but, um, why not focus exclusively on those areas?
Because you know, our, again, we don't necessarily measure success in, in the same way that others may, and like are the problems that exist in the global South, do they not exist in America? For example. Yeah, they do. And will the dollar go further in a different place than it will hit? Yeah. But the problem still exists and there will be some progress made here as well. And, uh, you know, I think, um, what's the, what's the saying, don't let perfect be the enemy of the good and we, don't also, you know, again, our emphasis really is on unlocking that potential within everyone. And going back to what I said earlier to me, the grant is symbolic. The value of the grant is beyond just the financial value of it. It's the investment of belief in someone. Yeah. Could it go further operationally somewhere else?
Yes. But what can it do to, to kindle a small spark of the human spirit that then turns into an inferno, whether that's in the global South, whether that's here in America or in the UK or in Europe or anywhere else, because the ripple of that, I do not know where that's going to lead and I don't think anyone knows where that's going to lead. And so to me, it's an extremely important thing. And it's not to take away from the fact that other organizations and other people who have a view of how money should be spent effectively have a particular model just for us as an organization. That's, that's the model that we feel is an important one is, is to really approve that apathy, wherever it may be.
Okay. A different tack on the same question. Um, okay. So that would all make sense if we're assuming that the $1,000 is fixed, but I mean, you mentioned before, like this desire to bump the 17, 18 19% up to your actually, you know, the, the applicants you've mentioned it's about all these non-financial things, but you could potentially like make the grant amounts smaller and be able to donate to, for the same kind of support level, reach a, a higher proportion of your applicants. If you actually approve the funding for a higher proportion of applicants, if you focused more narrowly on those areas, because by virtue of that, the funding going further per grant, you can split it over a larger number of people. I don't know any thoughts on that?
Definitely. I mean, during a kind of COVID pivot, one of the things that we did do is that we reduced the grant from a thousand dollars and, uh, you know, a lot of the grants that we made at that time were $500 and it went much further. Um, and you know, the other thing I'll add here is that the vast majority of our grants are made in the global South. Um, that's, you know, East Africa in particular in India as well, uh, areas where we probably do the most funding. So, so it does go to global South in particular. So in terms of the larger amounts to give, you know, we're not quite there yet. I don't, you know, it's, it's an idea. And I think we have to work out the details of that idea and what becomes the, the criteria for eligibility for a larger amount of grants and stuff like that, I think is an important aspect.
But beyond that, even the desire is to raise as many funds as we can, so we can continue to fund as many people as we can, whether that's a thousand dollars, $500, 10 bucks, whatever it may be. You know, I think, again, there's a balancing act here of, uh, making a grant in that symbolic way while also being practical and not being insulting and saying, yeah, we believe in you, here's 10 bucks, you know, go buy yourself a lollipop. So, you know, I think we have to also, there is a practical element to it on that side that we consider. And like I said, there are multiple organizations out there in the funding world for us, we focus in on supporting individuals to unlock that potential within themselves. And I think others are there who are, who are focused more on the kind of quantitative impact based, driven by data in the way that you were speaking about. So again, I think there's room for, for everyone. I don't think we can have just one approach because there's not just one issue. Individuals are very different in different areas, in different parts of the world and different mindsets. And I think there's room for everyone. I, I, you know, I, I want to see us grow in philanthropy so that each organization can become focused in what they're uniquely positioned offer to others. Not that we all become the same in our approach.
Yeah. Uh, speaking of seeing philanthropy growing, what are the main challenges that the pollination project has in terms of having a positive impact for animals, but you can speak more broadly as well. What are the, essentially the bottlenecks to having more impacts than you currently do?
I think the biggest one being is that we are a nonprofit, so we're only able to, to make as many grants as we're able to raise money to fund. So that's always an issue because, you know, as I mentioned, like you getting more than 80% of these applications, which are not able to fund, not because they don't have merit because they're not good applications that will have an impact because we were just limited as an organization in what we can do. So that, that is a big bottleneck. I think also we've danced around it a little bit, even in this conversation, I think our philosophical stance on grant making and our approach to why we're doing what we're doing also perhaps is not, it's not the norm in philanthropy. It's not considered the norm. Actually, even when the pollination project was first started, just the idea of giving a thousand dollar grant.
People laughed at it. People thought it was a silly idea and it wouldn't ever go anywhere. And now seven years later, we have over 4,000 grantees in 120 countries. And so I think, you know, our approach is different. Our approach is unique and, um, it's an approach I'm extremely proud of. And I think it's, it's one that there was a void in philanthropy, but it does present an interesting bottleneck. I think I, I think the philosophical thing is, is one that, um, or the philosophy behind our grant making the model in which we do our grant making, I think is a really, really interesting one. I think it's a really important one. I think it more democratic, it's more equitable in the approach that we take. Um, so I think, you know, perhaps we have to do a better job of articulating that out more broadly and why we do what we're doing.
And you know, that in and of itself then addresses the first point that I made, which is, I just want to partner with other people who are trying to do good work in the world and whether we have, uh, much to offer there. I think we do. And if we play a small part in a bigger landscape of, of trying to make the world a better place for animals, as well as human beings, as well as for the environment, you know, I can die a happy man in that we moved the needle somewhat, even if it was, we just made a couple of steps, we were part of something that was greater than us, you know?
Yeah. Uh, you, you mentioned, uh, the funding constraint as well there. Where does the pollination projects money come from? Like who, who are your donors?
Yeah, private individuals, um, fund about half of our half of our budget right now. Um, and that includes both small donors and, uh, larger donors. And, uh, you know, the rest comes from grant funders, uh, such as the open philanthropy project, for example, and other foundations that we partner with, uh, the tipping point foundation is another one. And so it's a mix between the two it's about 50 50 individuals and, um, and other other organizations and, and foundations as well.
Okay. Um, I've been asking a few times about what makes good grantees, what about what makes good grant-makers, do you think?
That's a great question. What makes good grant-makers? I think what makes good grant-makers is when we're able to remove ourselves from being a hurdle to good work being done. And so I think putting ourselves in the shoes of the grantee or the applicant, you know, I, I did this recently, actually I went through our application process because I'm looking at it from one perspective, but what's, what is it from the perspective of someone who's actually applying? What is the experience that they have? That's important? I think, I think the other important thing is to really trust the, the, the people who are approaching you to, to feel, I think this is more true for our model because we fund so, so widely across the world to, to really find those local community members who you can trust and rely on and understand that they may know better than I know.
And they may have an experience and an understanding of the context culturally, geographically, and also issue wise that I don't have. And I think the other thing is, is, is truly to be a partner, not just a funder to really be there along the journey of that person, to support them in the next step of that journey as well. And, uh, you know, just to summarize it, I think just make it as easy as possible for people while being diligent, uh, yourself to make sure that you're you're funding appropriately, but, you know, I think the easily, we can make it for people. The more people that you will see step up and say, yeah, I'm gonna, I'm really gonna go for this. I have this idea. I see the problem. And I, I feel I'm uniquely positioned to make a difference in this.
Do you think that answer is shaped by your focus on, on individuals and grassroots perspectives? Like, do you think if I'd asked you, or if I asked more specifically what makes good grant-makers who give 10,000 a pop or something like that? Would your answer be very different?
Yeah. I mean, I don't have experience in that sort of realm, uh, you know, uh, at the larger levels, a hundred thousand $250,000 realms, I'm not sure what makes them, I think some of what I said holds true, still be a trusted partner and, uh, you know, really, uh, support whether it's an organization or an individual on their journey. I can only really speak from the context of the work that I do. And, uh, I think it perhaps would be, um, ill informed me to, to speak more broadly beyond that. But I think some of the, some of the concepts I spoke of there would be applicable across the board. I mean, to make it as easy as possible people while being diligent. And it seems like a good idea to me, whether it's a, an organization who, or in someone in the global South who is an individual, trying to make a difference,
We've spoken quite a bit about the different kind of philosophy and goals that you and the pollination project have compared to, to other grant makers on a personal level. You also have a quite different background to most people in the animal advocacy and effective altruism movements in the sense that you were a monk for eight years. How did that come? And do you think it affects your work as a grant maker?
Yeah, I think it affects my work for sure. How it came about is, um, my parents were immigrants from India and we lived in a very rundown working class part of England and the outskirts of London. And it was interesting, you know, maybe this idea of being on the wrong side of the tracks, like we literally had a railroad track that divided the town I grew up in and on one side of the track where I lived, it was everyone was an immigrant. Everyone came from different countries with different language. Um, they all very working class, but then across the track was a native English folk who were also very working class. And there was like, this real hatred actually was the other side of the track was like a stronghold for the BNP, the BNP being the British National Party, an ultra right wing organization.
And so the cultural connection that my parents had to the place that they grew up, the pace that they were born was a temple. And, you know, my just culturally speaking, we, we kind of grew up with that as a backdrop of our household as well. We, you know, vegetarian household and we still followed some of the customs and the, and the, the, the practices of, of where my parents grew up. And so when I was younger, I just remember I was just enthralled, you know, most other kids, you get to the temple and you would see that their parents would have to drag them in. And with me, you had to drag me out. Like I was just, it was just a fascinating environment to me. There was just something about it that really captured me and captivated me. And more specifically with something about the people, the, and particularly the monks there, that it's just, it became something that just, I couldn't, I didn't know what it was, but I knew there was something there.
And I had met a man who went on to become the most influential person in my life, um, who I was really honored to spend a lot of time with, but I met him when I was very young and I wasn't known for being speechless, but I was just speechless. Uh, there was something about this person's presence that just, it completely just captivated me. And I didn't know what it was, but he had something and I wanted it. I wanted to find out how I could get it. And, um, and that was a, that was a thing. When I, when I saw the monks, I, I just saw these people who gave up everything in their lives in order to be of service. And it, just, to me, it was such a compelling thing, this act of selflessness. And of course, you know, it's not that everyone who takes it, that sort of a path is coming there with the same motive.
But anyway, at that time, it was just, to me, it was like the most revolutionary thing you could do. You give up everything in your life, you dedicate yourself to something greater than yourself and that thing being serviced to others. And so just from a very young age, I mean, I remember skipping school and taking a train for an hour to go to the temple so I could clean the floor. And it was like the biggest joy for me to go and do something like that. And, um, it just became, it just came to this point where it was time to go into college and whatever else, and I could not see anything else that I wanted to do more in my life than to just a mess myself, uh, in that lifestyle. And I started meditating when I was probably 10 or 11 years old.
My mother was also a meditator and it just felt like home for me. And just as I could see a world in whichever on around me was really out there for good reason as well, trying to build something for themselves. And, um, and I didn't want to do that. I wanted to opt out of that. I wanted to, to offer something else that wasn't just for me, but it was for others. And, um, I also recall seeing people, my friends, who I grew up with, we grew up in a very kind of run downtown the, the, the future career options. Weren't great. And, you know, I could see everyone was really striving to get a seat at the table. And I was looking at the table and thinking, I don't like what's on the menu, so I don't want to see at that table. And, um, and so I went down this path, uh, you know, my, in my late teens and I spent the next close to a decade actually in that full-time service.
And, um, how has it affected my work? Uh, you know, I see my life after the monastery is just a continuation of that same journey. I mean, I S I still have a deeply rooted spiritual practice is still the foundation of my life. And it's, um, it's touched on this earlier a little bit. It's he has shown me the importance of looking within myself that if I want to see a more compassionate world, then maybe I should become a more compassionate person. If I want to see a kind of world, maybe I should be a kinder person. If I don't want to see hates or injustice in the world, I should take that hate and injustice out of my own consciousness, out of my own hearts of my own mind. Because as long as those things exist within me, then there's no hope of making a difference, actually, because they'll come out at some point, I'm giving them safe haven within.
And so how has it affected my work, particularly in the sort of work that I'm doing? It's just given me. Yeah. It's given me this understanding that it's very, very important to, to look within. And that takes a significant amount of courage and vulnerability to really truthfully look at yourself and see the floors and the shortcomings that you have and to move forward despite having those, because it, it brings out a sense of humility. I'm not the master of my domain. I'm not the master of the issue that I'm fighting for. I'm actually the servant of that thing. Your ego can get the better best of you, no matter what you're doing, even if you're doing good work in the world. And when you're driven by your ego, the outward effect may look very nice, but in the long run, you could have been more effective.
If you try to somewhat quel that ego and the Eastern traditions, particularly the ego effacing traditions, it is about removing those false ideas of who we are and seeing the interconnection that we have with, with everything and everyone, and every living, being innate matter nature in and of itself. And, you know, we've seen this throughout history that we try to possess things like there was a time where we possessed people from a certain part of the world. We saw them as possessions. We see this particularly with animals, right? There's this is property, this cow, or whatever it may be. I'm a farm. This is my property. And even nature now, or historically, even with natures, when you see something as property, you remove its inherent rights in and of itself, the rights become your rights as the owner of the property. And what my monastic training has taught me is that I own nothing actually.
And I'm not the possessor of anything I'm supposed to be the steward and the shepherd of everything even divinity in and of itself is not something that one can possess, but rather you have to allow yourself to be possessed by it. And so it shaped my work in, in so many ways and that as best as I can, I'm also a human being with my flaws and shortcomings, as best as I can. I try to remove my ego from what I'm doing and do it out of a sense of duty rather than a sense of being driven by the reward that may come along with that duty.
Nice. Well, that was far too profound for me to ask a follow-up question. So I think we should, I think we should call it a day there and just say, thanks very much for joining me on the podcast, Ajay.
Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. And thank you for your questions. Even the ones that we don't quite agree on and continue on doing the great work that you're doing. I think the more people out there doing great work, even if it's different from how others may want to do it or see it the better the world's going to be. And so, uh, thank you. I really appreciate this opportunity to speak to you and to your audience. And I wish you all well for the, for the future and everything that you're doing and all of your endeavors.
Amazing. Yeah. Thank you to you very much. I guess, any final words on how people can get involved with the Pollination Project or support it in any way?
Yeah, absolutely. You can visit our website. You can follow us on social media and, um, check out everything we do. We put out a lot of content that kind of informs you of, of the projects that we're funding and what we're doing as an organization as well. And if you want to get involved in a more substantial way, we're always open to volunteers, either as an advisor or in other ways, if you have skills you want to offer you, you have some ideas that you want to share of how we can build out stuff. Then all is just going to a website. You can contact us that way. And of course, you know, as a nonprofit, any donations are always greatly gratefully received and, um, always go straight to the fields to help more change makers around the world.
Great. Thanks again.
Thanks for listening. I hope you enjoyed the episode. You can subscribe to the sentience Institute podcast in iTunes, Stitcher, or other podcast apps.